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Originally published Tuesday, May 4, 2010 at 4:23 AM

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MillerCoors 1Q profit rises on cost controls

MillerCoors' first-quarter profit rose slightly Tuesday on cost-cutting and higher prices even as sales of some brands slipped.

The Associated Press

NEW YORK —

MillerCoors' first-quarter profit rose slightly Tuesday on cost-cutting and higher prices even as sales of some brands slipped.

The maker of Miller Genuine Draft and Blue Moon earned $208.6 million for the period that ended March 31. That's up 1 percent from $206 million a year ago.

Excluding charges of $8.6 million related to severance and relocation costs, profit was $217.2 million.

"We successfully grew profit despite a challenging selling environment in the first quarter," CEO Leo Kiely said in a statement.

Revenue dipped 1 percent to $1.7 billion as sales of mainstay Miller Lite and Coors Light fell.

With unemployment levels still high, fewer people are going out to bars or restaurants for drinks, leading to lower beer sales. Many consumers have also traded down to cheaper brands in an attempt to save money, but there are signs some people willing to spend more money for craft beers as economic conditions start to improve.

Premium lights brand volumes, which include Miller Lite, Coors Light and MGD 64, fell mid-single digits in the quarter on a high single-digit drop in Miller Lite and low single-digit decline in Coors Light. This was somewhat offset by double-digit growth of the less expensive MGD 64.

MillerCoors' Craft and Import portfolio rose in the mid-single digits on double-digit growth of Blue Moon and a mid single-digit increase in Peroni Nastro Azzurro despite a soft import category.

Kiely said the company would continue to look at reducing its costs and put money into building its brands as the key summer selling season nears.

MillerCoors, based in Chicago, said domestic net revenue per barrel increased 2.1 percent when removing contract brewing and company-owned distributor sales.

MillerCoors, a joint venture made up of the U.S. businesses of Molson Coors Brewing Co. and SABMiller PLC, saved $60 million in the quarter. The company has saved $409 million since July 1, 2008, and said it is on track for $750 million in cost savings by the end of 2012.

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